Scientific Information Agency
03 November 2023

Kyiv public vegetarian canteens in the beginning of the 20th century

The Journal of Ukrainian history
Kyiv public vegetarian canteens in the beginning of the 20th century

For the first time the article reflects a research on the launch of public vegetarian canteens by Kyiv Vegetarian Society in the beginning of the 20th century. For now, there are no particular researches on this topic. Having used chronological, statistical, deductive and system analysis methods, we believe, that the launching of the First Vegetarian Canteen in Kyiv was proved to be inextricably linked to the foundation of Kyiv Vegetarian Society. Moreover, the fact of opening the canteen is a history of this Society. It has been discovered, that considering the inertness of the vegetarian community, this project succeeded solely due to the efforts of true enthusiasts of the vegetarian idea, M. Pudavov and his wife K. Kondrakovska. They united Kyiv supporters of the vegetarian idea into the Society and became both founders and main investors of the First Vegetarian Canteen in Kyiv, which gained an official name ‘the Canteen of Kyiv Vegetarian Society Council’. Unfortunately, their efforts weren’t evaluated properly, but even were generally subjected to contempt. M. Pudavov, who was a Head of Kyiv Vegetarian Society, was accused of the fact, that he actually established a private canteen, abusing official authority. Although, there are no doubts, that M. Pudavov acted in the interests of the Society and suggested to transfer the canteen to the Society’s property. But members of the Society expressed their interest only when the canteen became profitable. As a result of long debates, Kyiv Vegetarian Society got profitable the First Canteen for free and enjoyed benefits. The Canteen became the main funds provider. This money allowed the Society, as a collective owner, to open a chain of successful canteens. The premises of the foundation and stages of canteens’ development were traced. Thus, in two years from its opening, the First Canteen served 700 people every day. Such success prompted the Society to open the second canteen in 1911. Very soon it started to show similar to the First Canteen growth rate. In 1914 the third canteen was opened. Later on the Society opened the fourth canteen, but due to occupation of Kyiv in 1916, it had to suspend its functioning. Concerning other three canteens, they proceeded even in such harsh conditions and showed quite good results. The addresses of these canteens were discovered. Based on discovered and reflected in the article statistical data, the dynamics of visiting and profitability growth were analyzed. They didn’t slow down neither in the conditions of high competition, nor during World War I crisis. Moreover, during the War there was an increase in the attendance of public vegetarian canteens. General crisis of food supply heavily affected prices. Vegetables and greens were usually cheaper than meet products and this fact increased popularity of vegetarian places. In these canteens people could get lunch for lower price than in a traditional one. The commercial success of the Kyiv public vegetarian canteens had no analogues on the territory of the Russian Empire. It was caused by constant attention of the Society members to canteens, properly organized supply (even in conditions of war), control, good location and attractive pricing policy. There was a special Commercial Commission, which took care of all business. At the same time, famous connoisseurs of vegetarian cuisine worked on receipts and assortment. The daily maintenance of more than 1,000 people per day gives every reason to believe, that it was a large and exemplary enterprise. At the same time, popularity of vegetarian canteens during the whole assessed period can’t be equated with the proliferation of vegetarian ideas. It was primarily economic in nature, thanks to relatively low prices for vegetarian dishes that attracted poor clients, first and foremost students, who traditionally were accounted for more than 50% of visitors. At the same time the effect of popularization of vegetarianism can’t be completely rejected.

Source: Pyvovarenko O. (2019). Kyiv public vegetarian canteens in the beginning of the 20th century. The Journal of Ukrainian history. 39: 23-30

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